On Welcome

by Rev. Aaron Payson

Poem – Red Brocade, Naomi Shihab Nye

Full poem at https://poets.org/poem/red-brocade

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care…

These are favorite words for me.  The Poet captures the essence of hospitality and the genuineness of welcome.  I have been to places where the first question asked of me is who am I and what can I do for the group gathered.  And there are plentiful stories of people who enter churches and within a week are in charge of one program or another or perhaps find themselves sitting on the Board.  I have always favored the greeting which introduces another to community and asks in gentle ways, how can we serve you here? To be sure service comes in a variety of forms and often includes opportunities for those newest to serve as well, if that is where their heart is. More important I think is the essence of a welcome that does not ask one to prove that they belong but that there is a place of belonging for all those who are open to being in a beloved community, and even a place for those who are not yet sure where they belong.  

As we begin another fall season of worship and programming, let’s begin with this in mind.  There is much to be done for sure.  And yet, if we begin anywhere else than feeding each other soulfully, all our doing is just that, doing.  Being, on the other hand, suggests that we have connected deeply with a place, a people, and a purpose.  How shall we accomplish that?  I say begin with nourishing each other’s spirit and body, and then an invitation to walk together in whatever ways make for joy, gladness, and a sense that we are helping make a bruised and hurting world a better place for all.  

In the weeks to come, you will find many opportunities in our weekly communications to join in a variety of efforts, opportunities for learning, and moments to celebrate.  I hope you will join us.  Your tea is waiting.